Sunday 18 February 2018

Kelly vows to battle his way back after 'break' from Ireland set-up

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

STEPHEN KELLY wants to fight his way back into Giovanni Trapattoni's affections after being left out of the Ireland squad to face Poland next month.

The versatile defender recently joined Reading from Fulham, where he had limited opportunities this season. Trapattoni said on Monday that he had contacted Kelly to let him know that he was being given a "break" while the Italian looks at other options.

And the Dubliner says he is keen to break back into the set-up, despite his much publicised bust-up with assistant coach Marco Tardelli in October, by playing more games for his new club and impressing the 73-year-old.

"I have been in the set-up since the age of 20. I have always been involved. Last year I played every game," he said.

"Hopefully if I play more here it will give me more opportunities to play for Ireland. That's something I love doing. I know people don't see it that way, but for me it's the pinnacle. It's a fantastic opportunity to represent my country."

Trapattoni is awaiting news from Everton on the extent of the thigh injury suffered by Seamus Coleman in the Toffees' Premier League scoreless draw against Southampton on Monday.

The Donegal native went off with the strain during the second half, but could yet feature in Saturday's FA Cup meeting with Bolton.

Meanwhile, Derby County boss Nigel Clough believes Jeff Hendrick will be a major asset for Ireland when he links up with the senior squad for the February 6 friendly.

"It has been fascinating to see the way that Jeff has developed over the last few years," the former Nottingham Forest and Liverpool player said.

"He has grown and matured to be a very good midfield player. He is still only 20 so there is plenty of scope for him to improve even more. His form was excellent last season.

"He did have a sticky patch a few weeks ago, but showed bags of character to rediscover his form and he has actually taken it up a notch.

"Jeff has now firmly established himself in our midfield and his performances in recent weeks have been as good as we've seen from him in a Derby shirt."

Hendrick is one of three Rams players called up to the squad for the Poland game and Clough praised two of his signings, Conor Sammon and Richard Keogh, for earning their international recognition.

"Conor is a real team player, sometimes putting others before himself and that is a quality we really like about him. He has scored seven times this season and he has really grown in confidence and stature over the past few months. He is a real threat to opposition defences," he said.

"Richard has put his body on the line when it's really mattered. He's also a leader at the back and so when we were aiming to bring in a central defender in the summer, he was the first name on our list.

"We think he'll only get better, too, and his form this season certainly merits a chance to show what he can do on the international scene.

"It's big news for us as a club to have three players selected in one international squad. They are all extremely good characters and their call-ups are all richly deserved.

"We will all be watching with interest next month. It is a good chance for all of them to try and impress and keep themselves in the Ireland set-up."

Meanwhile, the Poland manager Waldemar Fornalik has named a strong squad for the Lansdowne Road fixture next month.

Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny is the sole representative of the English Premier League in the 17-man panel, which includes Borussia Dortmund trio Robert Lewandowski, Lukasz Piszczek and captain Jakub Blaszczykowski.

The Poles are third in Group H behind Montenegro and England.

POLAND squad (v Rep of Ireland): Szczesny (Arsenal), Tobacco (PSV), Piszczek (Dortmund), Perquis (Betis), Wasilewski (Anderlecht), Glik (Torino), Boenisch (Leverkusen), Komorowski (Grozny), Blaszczykowski (Dortmund), Borysiuk (Kaiserslautern), Mierzejewski (Trabzonspor), Krychowiak (Reims), Grosicki (Sivasspor), Obraniak (Bordeaux), Lewandowski (Dortmund), Sobiech (Hannover), Milik (Leverkusen).

Irish Independent

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